Kendo Musings – Milestones and Other Reflections

October 21 marked my fourth month doing Kendo. And ten days before that, I finally donned a bogu. Everything seemed fast for me. It was not what I expected my Kendo journey would be. I did not know much about the martial art going in. But what I do know is that I want to take things slow and learn everything as purely as I can. Haste has never been my strongest suit. For me, there are certain things in life that need to be learned as slowly as possible.

In the four months that I have been training, I can say that I still do not know much about what I am doing. And yet here I was wearing a bogu since October 11. I feel that it is too soon. The weight of that feeling weighs heavily on me more than the bogu parts put together. I dislike being rushed. I had my second thoughts starting when I felt like I was being rushed to wear the armour. I wanted to be really good at the basics first before I do that. Because I feel like I am not worthy of the weight I will be carrying. A bogu symbolizes a major milestone for me. One that I wanted to achieve with confidence that I deserve to use it. But I felt that nobody understood my misgivings. The other seniors already have their bogu sets shortly after they started. It took several weeks of prodding by them and our teacher before I finally got mine. I figured I have to get one already lest I will be left behind in the training.

Last week, I mustered the courage to ask our most senior member about what I thought to be our “elephant in the room”. I do not know if it was only me, but I kept experiencing intense pain after taking a hit from some members during Men drills. I have noticed the differences in force even before we started wearing bogu and had to use the shinai as targets. I have been analyzing the strikes since I started feeling the pain. I thought maybe my head gear was the problem, a thought that really sucked since I picked the brand and type of bogu based on durability and level of protection offered. I initially thought that perhaps our teacher was not hitting me full force since I do not feel any pain after I get hit by him. But then I realized that there are no reservations in his strikes. He hits me with the same amount of force he usually gives to others. It only makes sense to assume that a strike, when correctly done, should not hurt as much as it does when I get hit by the others.

So going back to the elephant in the room, I think that pain is one of those things that some people would prefer to keep quiet about. Talking about pain in martial arts can be misconstrued as weakness. But in any sport, there is a limit to the acceptable level of pain. My chief concern with my kind of pain was it involves my head. I have suffered all kinds of painful injuries in the past in my other sport. Those injuries were no joke, with a lot of them requiring months of rehabilitation while I continued with my training. But I never had to absorb so many hits on my head every practice even when I was doing arnis and sanshou. This time though, the pain is literally on my head. I thought that there must be something wrong if it was that painful. I began to consider quitting because I did not sign up to mess with my head or my brain for that matter. Finally, I thought that it is time to speak up. After all, I may also be guilty of doing it to the others. I was hoping that we could focus on doing it correctly, like our teacher does.

It was a load off my chest talking about that pain thing. Our most senior member was quite understanding and responsive about the whole thing. Practice was better yesterday. I thought maybe I can stick with this. Because I do want to. I just want to take one step at a time and learn everything as they ought to be learned. I wish myself all the patience, determination, perseverance, and luck to get through what lies ahead.

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